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Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin

Blog Post: Finishing the SNAP Challenge

Jun 20, 2013
Blog Post

From Thursday, June 13, to Wednesday, June 19, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) participated in the SNAP Challenge and live on the national weekly average food stamp benefit of $31.50 (or $4.50 a day) for one week. Pocan is participating in the SNAP Challenge to shed light on the efforts by Congressional Republicans to cut $20.5 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding, which would kick 2 million people off the food stamp program and reduce access to free school meals for 210,000 children.

Yesterday was my last day of the SNAP Challenge. I ran out of bread, out of cereal and mac and cheese, and I savored the last of my oranges. Right before I had my last meal, I took to the House floor to vote on an amendment to the Farm Bill that would have restored the $20.5 billion in Republican cuts to SNAP—cuts that gut a critical program that so many Americans rely on. Unfortunately, for the 2 million Americans who will be kicked off SNAP, the amendment to combat these cuts failed on a largely party-line vote.

While my fellow Challenge participants and I now return to our normal diets and normal grocery shopping habits, we cannot forget that a SNAP benefit of $4.50 a day IS normal for so many Americans. Contrary to some accusations, SNAP is not a handout or a lifetime entitlement. And as I wrote in the Beloit Daily News, supporting SNAP does not mean you don’t also support investing in economic growth. SNAP is a lifeline for those facing severe poverty and working to get back on their feet.

The SNAP Challenge gave me a real opportunity to put my money—and my diet—where my mouth is. Too often, members of Congress vote on measures not understanding the real life impact made by our policy choices. For one week I had the opportunity to walk in the shoes and eat at the tables of the 800,000 Wisconsinites who rely on SNAP to feed their families. I often found myself hungry, which had a noticeable effect on my ability to concentrate and my energy levels (this is why the free- and reduced-lunch program, included within SNAP, is critical for our low-income students who we want to thrive in the classroom, not focus on their hunger). I end the Challenge with a new appreciation for mac and cheese and peanut butter, a deeper understanding of the real challenges to living on a food stamp budget, and a renewed commitment to protecting this vital assistance program for our neediest citizens.

We have a moral responsibility as legislators and Americans to ensure that none of our fellow countrymen and women is allowed to go hungry. We cannot sit back as millions of our citizens and millions of our children go without vital nutrition. This is simply not the Wisconsin way.

-- Mark Pocan